Tag Archives: Fandom

All Ready to Feel the Power of the Dark Crystal

Modern fandom is a tricky thing. Geek culture is ascendant in so many ways, often in service of mining intellectual property (IP) to find that latest multi-billion dollar franchise. And corporations appear so risk averse towards the potential market downside of new ideas that they will bet on IP, any IP, over people. At least, based on what I read in trade news about how studios are hungry for any known quantity, my premise is a studio executive will green light the next Battleship a dozen times before they say yes to developing the next Inception.

Thankfully, the studios also appear to be giving the keys of their IP kingdoms to people who love the originals more often than not. No longer will we have David Hasselhoff as Nick Fury. (Well, probably not, until late 90s nostalgia kicks in).

So when I heard word that there was going to be a prequel series to The Dark Crystal, a calculated move to hit us Gen Xers right in the feels, I was both excited and wary at the same time. And then they dropped this:

Now, for those of you who want to go deeper, there’s also a nine-minute “behind-the-scenes” promo that has a lot of the actors and producers involved. It’s here clearly to get one excited about the upcoming series

Do what you will this Labor Day weekend. I know some of my time will be spent returning to another place, another time… in the age of wonder!

Worldcons and World Conquest (by way of Pop Culture)

I’ve never been to a Worldcon, but I’m thinking I ought to for when it’s in my backyard.

George R. R. Martin, however, has been to just about every Worldcon he could for several decades running.

This year’s WorldCon is in Dublin, so the Irish Times caught up with him and he mused on WorldCons and fandom and all sorts of things.

If you want more of Martin musing on his career and art, you can also catch an interview of him on Maltin on Movies.

So Say We All… Well, Except for Those Chuckleheads

I touched on notions of fandom with my Crisis of Infinite Star Treks series and certainly toxic fandom has been more on people’s minds in the past year or so in any case (see, for example, these pieces on CNET and in Wired).

So it was interesting to read Ryan Britt’s piece in Den of Geek talking with the writers of So Say We All, a new book about the Battlestar Galactica remake… including the fact that it was not just a remake, but a “re-imagining.”

There’s obviously more in the book than just the subject of fandom, but that’s the focus of the article. Certainly, BSG –as it’s often abbreviated– provided ample opportunity for toxic fan uproar from its short yet expansive stint on TV. I’m sure had it been made nowadays, the uproar and venting would have been omnipresent. Much of what they pulled off was nothing less than exceptional, but let’s just say I don’t want to be in a room of BSG fans discussing how the series ended. That’s just going to get unpleasant.

Voiceover Update: And (once again) Bjorn Munson as the Vorta

I mentioned this back in March when the prologue episode dropped, but I got a chance to play a Vorta, one of the villains of Star Trek, in an audio fan production last year.

The series, A Call to Unity, is now posted on iTunes so you can subscribe and get your post-Romulus destruction Trek fix.

Enjoy… maybe not as much as my character enjoys tormenting Starfleet captains, but, well, you know…

This Guy Has Balls

I’m currently getting ready for Escape Velocity this weekend, which is sure to be full of delightfully zealous fans.

Well, unless you get arrested by Klingons at an inopportune moment.

But this video reminds me how fandom takes many forms and friends and family can join in the fun regardless of whether they’re fans of the topic in question or not. Enjoy!

Voiceover Update: And Bjorn Munson as the Vorta

Last Fall, the launch of Jabberwocky Audio Theater was still over half a year away, so I decided to throw my hat in the ring to act in a Star Trek fan production. I got the opportunity to play a Vorta, one of the Dominion’s genetically engineered races. The Vorta might be described as the carrot to the Jem’Hadar‘s stick, but let’s be honest: Vorta are perfectly happy to abandon the carrot when they can make a veiled threat in a voice that would make Dolores Umbridge swoon.

Anyway, I naturally looked to the portrayal of Vorta in official Star Trek for guidance. The wonderful Jeffrey Combs, in his portrayal of the various versions of Weyoun sets the standard for Vorta and unctuous menace (seriously, how he comes across as both a people-pleaser and a pitiless martinet is marvelous). However, I also noted Gelnon (played by Leland Crooke), who first appeared in “One Little Ship” as a good model. He seems to take quiet satisfaction in furthering the Dominion’s ruthless goals — which, I guess, is my way of saying this Vorta is not a nice guy.

Ruthless Vorta aren’t the only familiar thing you’ll hear in this series. If you’ve heard or watched other Star Trek fan productions, this will ring true. Shields will go down. Evasive maneuvers will be made. Loyalties will be conflicted. And all of it will connect to events and characters you’ve seen in official Trek.

Enjoy!

Fandom, Umbrage, and IP

I’ve been thinking of writing a longer post about fandom and perceived ownership — all the more so with the launch of Star Trek: Discovery.

Mark Evanier’s post, aptly titled “Creative Custody,” refutes the notion of fans “owning” comic book characters, but it can be applied to lots of other fan-beloved intellectual property (IP), such as IP that involves warrior races called Klingons.

Much of what Mark Evanier says could be said by someone who hasn’t been an avid comic books reader for about 60 years and a continuously working comic writer for about 40 years… but that authority helps.

Prepare for Warp Speed. No, Really.

This is the 30th entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

A lot has happened in the months since my last Crisis post, so let’s focus on Discovery.

You mean we should check the orbit?

Fine, Star Trek: Discovery. We now have:

Aja Romano has a nice summary on Vox of what we know, and perhaps should know, about the upcoming series. The article is cautiously optimistic, as am I (and I’m very excited about both Michelle Yeoh and Jason Isaacs as Starfleet captains — they’re usually good in any role in which they’re cast).

Bill Allen on TrekFanProductions.com sums up many of my feelings about encountering new Star Trek TV series. His specific misgivings are different from mine, but they echo my journey through each new iteration of Trek, a journey that has always ended well (maybe not good final episodes, but good endings).

In the end: we have a brand new, official Star Trek series. And as Mr. Allen points out: that’s cause for celebration in Trekdom.

Given my previous installments, I should mention that, yes, Axanar continues (Not like Star Trek Continues, but still…). In case you hadn’t picked up from my last Crisis installment, I don’t have any hopes for us seeing further Axanar: certainly not the feature-length version and probably not the “two 15 minute segments” version. Posturing and acrimony remain should you care to throw yourself into that particular Briar Patch. I keep an eye on things, but at this point, my flying leg kicks on the matter are known.

In the meantime, if you’re itching for Star Trek fan films to tide you over until September 24th, there’s plenty to choose from. (This is assuming you have already re-watched all the canon TV series on Netflix). You can check out some of the latest episodes of the aforementioned Star Trek Continues. In fact, if you go to that same website with the Bill Allen post, you’ll see a whole page of fan film productions you might want to check out.

Fall will be here before you know it. It’s no longer a training cruise, people.

Prepare for warp speed.

P.S. Oh yeah, this Fall, there’s a Star Trek homage/parody from Seth MacFarlane which looks like it could potentially pick up the torch of Galaxy Quest. I’m hoping both shows are good.

Crisis of Infinite Star Treks: The Naked Greed Time

This is the 29th entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

Frankly, I though we’d all be done with all things Axanar by now, but since certain Star Trek “fans” continue to try and fleece other fans, I needed to weigh in again.

I’ll cut the chase: Axanar Productions (Alec Peters, et al), the folks who crowdfunded about $1.4 million to make a feature film and spent it all while not making said film are back trying to raise more money via Indiegogo.

Again: they raised a ton of cash promising to do something. They spent the cash, not doing at all what they promised — and are back to ask for more money. In this case, they’re saying it’s not for Axanar per se, but for a non-profit studio, even as they are losing their studio space (more on that below).

Before you –or anyone you know– sends them any money, know that there are two outcomes of any of their crowdfunding efforts based on their previous words and deeds:

  1. They are grossly incompetent, will waste any crowdfunds, and will not deliver on what they promised.
  2. They are insidiously greedy, will not deliver, and will spend crowdfunds on something other than what they promised.

I’m thinking they’re going with the slime-covered door # 2 in this scenario.

It’s not that starting a studio with a focus to help aspiring filmmakers tell their stories isn’t a bad idea. It’s quite cool, in fact. But it’s a tremendous undertaking that takes a particular passion. And I haven’t seen that particular passion of helping other people make films come from the Axanar crew.

What I have seen from Alec Peters and the Axanar crew has been not delivering on their own project — and the reasons why they haven’t delivered require one to maintain a level of cognitive dissonance that exceeds warp 10. And we all know how bad that gets.

Arguably transformative, but don’t go there.

I’ve mentioned this in both the 27th and 28th entries,  but it bears repeating: if you are to take Alec Peters at his word, working on Axanar has been:

1) A full-time job which is just a hobby, for which he
2) required a completely reasonable salary which is not a salary because he paid it back
3) to produce a professional feature film that is simultaneously a fan film
4) to be shot in a studio which is a commercial studio except when it’s not and is just a warehouse
5) and they were all ready to begin shooting in the beginning of 2016 yet the studio/warehouse still isn’t ready for shooting (and which they’re vacating by the end of April 2017).
6) and they have been working meticulously to get every detail adhere exactly to Star Trek canon because they’re doing this for the true Star Trek fans,
7) but this is in no way a Star Trek film
8) which the Axanar team knew could not be made the moment the lawsuit was filed in December 2015
9) which is one of the reasons the Axanar team continually argued they wouldn’t settle the lawsuit unless they could make that film the Star Trek fans really wanted
10) and so Alec Peters and Axanar spent the $1.4 million as promised
11) to make the Star Trek fan film that’s a professional film that’s not a Star Trek film
12) except they didn’t make the film.

So let’s say for the sake of argument that, upon much reflections, the Axanar team has decided they will channel their energies into creating a non-profit studio. Well, they’ve just said that, at the end of this month, they don’t have a studio!

Screenshot from the announcement. Clear as mud, no?

Have they updated their Indiegogo campaign meant to raise funds for this studio? From their own announcement, it’s quite vague about who owns what, except that Axanar Productions is now no longer intertwined with Industry Studios… though it sounds like Axanar Productions might still get the crowdfunding for this Industry Studios campaign, which would be odd. For example, who fulfills the studio rental perks?

What does Danny think of this?

And then the Axanar sets will need to be moved… somewhere. In fact, anywhere in the United States seems to be an option per the announcement. Are funds from this current campaign going to moving and storing the sets? Is using crowdfunding for Axanar activities even kosher under the settlement with CBS/Paramount?

Yeah, some clarification on the campaign page might be in order.

And if the Axanar sets move outside of California, is it even logical to try and have Axanar Productions located in California? As mentioned in a previous entry, they’ve been saying for over a year that they’re pursuing non-profit status and while the process is detailed, it really doesn’t take that long and California spells out the steps. If they really are at “step # 7” as the announcement indicates, we should know about their board of directors, their bylaws, and they could also mention the most important step: getting tax-exempt status from the Feds. (Hint: if you want to know what that could look like, look at what the Star Trek Continues crew did and posted on their website for all to see).

Sigh.

Those of you who have read my previous posts in this series know I have long since exhausted my patience with Axanar.

But you don’t need to be exhausted nor be a “hater” to choose Door # 1 in this scenario: they’re incompetent.

Axanar Productions crowdfunded $1.4 million and failed to deliver what they promised. They’ve just announced they won’t have a studio — the central tenet of this campaign. And frankly, I have to believe other studio spaces in the Los Angeles area have sprung up in the past few decades to meet indie filmmakers’ needs (and some may even be soundproofed!). Axanar doesn’t have a track record and they now don’t have the facility. They don’t deserve your money.

However, I’m going to still go with Door # 2: greed. They advertised this latest campaign as the natural progression of  their work, as if the 8,500 supporters of their Kickstarter campaign or 7,600 supporters of their previous Indiegogo campaign were wanting a studio instead of the Star Trek film advertised.

In space, no one can smell what they’re shoveling

And now the studio itself is out of their hands.

We already know the $1.4 million did not result in completed sets or a properly soundproofed studio. We also know from court documents that Alec Peters used crowdfunds on personal expenses. He also seems to like having a web of shell corporations, which really does not inspire trust.

Whether you think it’s incompetence or greed, Star Trek fans don’t let fellow fans donate to Axanar (and yes, that means Industry Studios, Quark Enterprises, or whatever other names they come up with). Spread the word.

And hey, feel free to let Indiegogo know about this dubious campaign as well.

UPDATE, April 8th, 10:30 ET
Evidently, realizing that their Indiegogo campaign being for a studio space they no longer control looks a tad sketchy (presumably even into Indiegogo), Axanar is trying to update the campaign.

If I wanted things this sketchy, I’d watch Monty Python.

UPDATE #2: April 9th, 2:30pm ET
Besides the various conversations happening on Reddit and the various Facebook groups (e.g. the original CPvA group, CPvA Alumni Pie Club, Axamonitor) Carlos Pedraza has written an update on the Axanar/Industry studio shenanigans on Axamonitor proper. Between that article and many of the screenshots on the Facebook group, you get the impression that the vitriol directed at people questioning Alec and Axanar’s motives is not at all uncommon — and just as ridiculous and silly. Of course, I’m probably only saying that because I’m clearly doubleplusungood.

Oh, and I’m thinking of introducing myself as “Bjorn Munson, Anonymous Blogger” in the future.

The Worst of Both Worlds: Axanar Edition

This is the 28th entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

Very far-reaching world events you may have heard of –and good ol’ work duties– have been dominating my attention for the past two weeks. However, for a small subset of Star Trek fans like myself, there has also been big Star Trek news of late:

First, Star Trek: Discovery is apparently delayed further.

Second, the CBS/Paramount vs. Axanar lawsuit has been settled — and the settlement apparently means Axanar can make a film.

I’ll get to the fact that the settlement means we can potentially see [a version of] Axanar in a moment.

Before that, I wanted to touch on Star Trek: Discovery being delayed. It’s a bummer, but production delays do not mean automatic doom (I’m looking at you, TV incarnation of Westworld). In fact, considering how little I knew about Westworld going in, I’m thinking a little self-enforced media blackout might be a good thing. It certainly helped my enjoyment of Force Awakens and Rogue One.

What you might not know about the Discovery delay is one side of the pro-Axanar narrative that I haven’t previously delved into before — in part because it will trigger your starship’s “crazypants deflector.”

(This is a little-known, but very necessary feature mandatory on all Federation starships — almost as important as structural integrity fields).

You see, as the narrative goes, in addition to CBS/Paramount going after Axanar “because it was just too good,” CBS/Paramount also wanted to use the specific time period where Axanar is set, and they couldn’t do that with pesky Alec Peters and Axanar in the way with their story of the Four Years War.

Why, Alec and co. might sue CBS/Paramount for taking their idea!

Yes, you read that right. In the mind of some Axanar defenders, CBS/Paramount, the people who own the the intellectual property (IP) of Star Trek might be stealing, um, ideas for Star Trek stories.

Evidently, the Axanar faithful have managed to avoid running this line of thought past any intellectual property attorney –or indeed any law student who’s been paying attention– so they don’t understand how “stealing ideas” doesn’t come into play when it’s not infringing a copyright, trademark, or patent. You know, like Axanar did with Star Trek IP.

There’s also repeated invocations of Gene Roddenberry, as if adhering to his vision –or at least what they believe to be his vision– conveys any legal standing. Roddenberry can and should get kudos for creating Star Trek. But for us to be able to see Star Trek in the first place, he sold the rights… like countless creatives have done before and since. During the lawsuit, the Axanar legal team went through the Quixotic legal motions for CBS/Paramount to prove chain of title. Unsurprisingly, there were no legal hull breaches. In fact, Judge Klausner struck down Axanar’s main legal strategy in claiming Fair Use.

But besides the silliness of fans being able to sue IP rights holders for “using their ideas” about the IP, there’s the notion that creative professionals are creatively bankrupt in the first place. The producers of Star Trek: Discovery include Star Trek veterans Bryan Fuller and Nicholas Meyer as well as a host of other experienced writer-producers that may not be as well known, such as Gretchen Berg, Aaron Harberts, and Heather Kadin.

I guarantee you that each one of these people wants to make the best dang Star Trek show possible — and they all have a track record of actually producing dozens of hours of professional television and films.

That’s no small feat… and it’s not a feat the Axanar crew has managed.

And that’s important. Because as I mentioned last year in parsing the new Fan Film Guidelines: what’s better than Star Trek fan productions? Actual Star Trek!

Which brings us back to the settlement. I know many on the CBS/Paramount vs. Axanar discussion board wanted blood, which is understandable given Axanar’s role in forever changing the landscape of Axanar fan films. Writer and designer Daniel Quinn noted a little over a week ago, as the case was marching to its court date, that Axanar was going to ruin things for everyone. I contend it already has. In fact, based on my last post, you can reasonably assume I wouldn’t say no to Axanar receiving a Kirk flying leg kick.

Still, there’s the amazing resolution that we could actually see Axanar, albeit an Axanar that must adhere to the new Star Trek fan film guidelines — with exceptions to said guidelines allowing some of the professional actors to still be involved. Part of me would love to see what they could come up with in two 15-minute segments.

But I can’t ignore their complete financial mismanagement that allowed them to blow through $1.4 million in crowd-raised funds… and pretend like that was normal or expected. Remember Axanar’s statement:

And also remember, that, per Axanar’s own admission via legal depositions, tens of thousands of crowd-raised dollars were spent on personal expenses:

Did you get that? Not just an occasional dip into the funds, which wouldn’t be cool anyway, but two years’ worth of personal expenses paid for by Star Trek fans.

All for the privilege of not getting the promised film.

Where No Fan Film has Gone Before
There’s a number of questions the settlement raises, some of which are covered in a recent Axamonitor article.

What I find truly disturbing is Alec Peters’ casual admission that they knew over a year ago that they wouldn’t be making the film:

 

There’s several things to unpack in that conversation. First and foremost is the admission that “…it was clear [Axanar] could never make the movie, win or lose.”

So if they knew they couldn’t make the movie that Star Trek fans wanted to see –a consistent talking point throughout this past year– why didn’t they settle earlier? And how is that spending the $1.4 million “as promised?”

As you might expect, many an Axanar backer is not cool with this. Many of them point out that they backed an Axanar feature film, and that two 15-minute webisodes does not amount to the same thing. Others are upset that Axanar settled at all, feeling their cause was just (and apparently missing the part where the Fair Use defense was rejected).

Even so, there are still those Axanar true believers. That’s another item to unpack in the online conversation above. Ambitious crowdfunded projects failing to achieve their goal is not unheard of. Backing a team that failed to achieve their goal so spectacularly means giving more weight to one’s faith than the facts at hand. At this point, do you really want to keep on backing Axanar, despite strong evidence that they will not be good custodians of your dollars?

But apparently some people gotta lotta faith.

It’s transformative!

Besides the $1.4 million in funds being gone, many of the team that made Prelude to Axanar are no longer there, including Christian Gossett, the director and co-writer and Tommy Kraft who was instrumental in much of the digital compositing portion of the visual effects.

And in addition to the lack of funds and possible lack of integral personnel, there’s also a significant leap of logic one needs to make. When I last pointed it out, it had seven steps, but since the settlement, it’s grown.

In short, if you are to take Alec Peters at his word, working on Axanar has been:

1) A full-time job which is just a hobby, for which he
2) required a completely reasonable salary which is not a salary because he paid it back
3) to produce a professional feature film that is simultaneously a fan film
4) to be shot in a studio which is a commercial studio except when it’s not and is just a warehouse
5) and they were all ready to begin shooting in the beginning of 2016 yet the studio/warehouse still isn’t ready for shooting in 2017
6) and they have been working meticulously to get every detail adhere exactly to Star Trek canon because they’re doing this for the true Star Trek fans,
7) but this is in no way a Star Trek film
8) which the Axanar team knew could not be made the moment the lawsuit was filed in December 2015
9) which is one of the reasons the Axanar team continually argued they wouldn’t settle the lawsuit unless they could make that film the Star Trek fans really wanted
10) and so Alec Peters and Axanar spent the $1.4 million as promised
11) to make the Star Trek fan film that’s a professional film that’s not a Star Trek film
12) except they didn’t make the film.

If someone can keep that straight in their head, they’re far better than me or our poor ensign above.

I can’t help but think they’re worse off in the long run though.

Where Umbrage Has Lease
So here’s the thing: if people want to support the continued adventures of Axanar, go for it. The fan film guidelines allow for rich uncles and private donations.

But what Axanar can’t do, by their own description of the settlement, is solicit more donations publicly.

Guess what they’re doing as of today?

Taken from axanarproductions.com on 2017-01-30

And this is what really overheats my warp core: they’re still pretending that they’re a non-profit because they’re going to apply to become a non-profit. For realz.

Click to enlarge. Taken from http://www.axanarproductions.com/mythbusters-debunking-three-misconceptions-about-axanar-productions/ on 2017-01-30. Note the post itself is from March 2016.

Ladies and gentlebeings, I’ve worked for non-profits. I’ve benefited from non-profits. I’ve even helped start a non-profit.

Neither Axanar Productions nor any of its shell companies is a non-profit.

Some people have opined that California is pretty strict about non-profits. Perhaps. But I’ve checked out out the steps for forming a non-profit in California and they don’t look any more difficult than Virginia, Maryland, or the District of Columbia (where the non-profits I’m more familiar with reside).

Look at that link I provided above. It’s chock full of useful information and, as with so much in government, it may be boring, but it isn’t rocket science. Anyone can form a business (hey, Axanar Productions has arguably formed several) and the nice thing about non-profits is you often can find a lawyer who’s willing to help you out pro-bono.

What? Did you think all those small non-profit theaters I worked for in the DC area were raking in the cash?

So you combine ample resources to walk you through forming a non-profit and the prospect of pro-bono legal help, why don’t we see any sign of that on the Axanar website?

You see, getting that non-profit status isn’t an endless black hole. Another quick Google search and you’ll find another resource that tells you to expect 2-12 months to get your IRS status as a 501(c)(3). In my experience, it seems to always take at least 6 months, but that’s doable.

And why am I harping on this? Because in my experience, any bona fide non-profit can’t keep quiet about seeking its valid status and announcing they’re open for tax-deductible donations. And, in fact, the IRS likes to get a bunch of information every year on such organization in their Form 990 — a form those organizations love to share on their websites and something you can look up.

That’s right citizen: these organizations dedicated to public good make the nitty-gritty details of their budget open for anyone to see. Heck, they often share their bylaws openly too.

Don’t believe me? Check out the non-profit running Star Trek Continues and their application for non-profit status, something you’ll also find mentioned on their website. Plus, you want their Form 990? Bam, here ya go!

What about that non-profit I has a small part in starting, the DC Film Alliance? Here’s their form 990.

What about two local media non-profits I’m a member of? What if I want to know more about their inner financial workings? Well, I guess a simple Google search will net me copious info about WIFV and TIVA-DC.

Oh, you want a California non-profit? Okay, have the Sierra Club. Bam.

I could do this all day.

All of these theaters I’ve worked for or supported, any of these media organizations that try and support me and my fellow creatives: they all would love to have $1.4 million in donations to spend. Heck, if that’s too frivolous for you, think about what Habitat for Humanity could do with that money.

And they’d all want to make sure you’d know the money is well spent — hence the just-the-facts Form 990s you see.

That’s not the case with Axanar Productions… but they’re happy to say they’re going to get around to being a non-profit. Some day…

And that’s what sets off the umbrage alarms in the warp core. I absolutely hate to think that more Star Trek fans will donate money to this non-non-profit which is not delivering any Star Trek or films or the public good.

So if you, like me, want to look out for your fellow fans, there is actually something you can do.

If you go over to the CBS/Paramount vs. Axanar forum, you’ll see a post that explains exactly how you can complain to the California Attorney General about some Ferengi masquerading as hoo-mans taking donations for a non-non-profit. The direct link to the form is here, but if you want to double-check some of the information to fill in, consult the thread above. And hey, if you don’t fax it, feel free to mail it with a Star Trek stamp.

I know the fate of one Star Trek fan film doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. And we know it’s a crazy world because the fan film is also not a fan film nor a Star Trek film. Except it is. Except is hasn’t and probably won’t get made.

Okay, I digress. But whatever the future holds, let’s make sure we all have more gold-pressed latinum in it to causes we care about, perhaps actual films. Axanar has gotten over one million. That’s enough.